The Weekly: Methane from the Deep, Biofuel from the Sun

Bubble, Bubble, Methane is Trouble: A vast storehouse of methane under the Arctic Ocean has perforated and is starting to leak, researchers disclosed. While scientists have long been preoccupied with methane release from thawing permafrost on mainland Siberia, the underwater stores in the adjoining East Siberian Arctic Shelf are much larger, and the release of even a small fraction could lead to a dramatic increase in global warming. Methane is a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more powerful than CO2.

Now a Word from Our Other Gases: It was a promising week in the world of fuels. A Colorado startup revealed a solar concentrator that can vaporize biomass and make high-yield synthetic fuels. British scientists explored enzymes in the gut of a boat-eating bug that could break down straw or waste wood. Meanwhile, a California newbie called Transonic Combustion claims to have invented a fuel-injection system that could boost mileage of plain old gas by 50 percent. The company registered 64 miles to the gallon in recent test drives.

As if that wasn’t enough, Brazil’s 10 millionth vehicle powered by sugarcane ethanol hit the road. Also, the world’s largest shipping company,  Maersk, said it would try to cut its CO2 output by 20 percent in the next seven years by blending its heavy engine oil with biofuels.

And the Winners in the Common-Sense Category Are…: Rooftop solar water heaters are spreading like dandelion seeds in China and Europe; if worldwide growth projections hold true, in the next decade they could save the energy equivalent of 690 coal-fired power plants. Hurrah also for the efficient cookstove, a simple and inexpensive contraption that can stamp out soot, reduce the melting of glaciers, and help women and children live longer in the developing world.

Electric Batteries Cheap; Charging Stations Out? Prices for electric-car batteries are dropping so fast that an electric car might not cost as much as the bean-counters thought.  Also, a study finds that most electric-car drivers get around fine by charging at home; does this mean electric-car charging stations are a big waste of money?

Now Get Out of Here: With the Greek economy in meltdown, there’s never been a better time to buy an island. If it sinks underwater in a few years because of global warming, then make like the Maldives and build your own.


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